Ritual - Effective Delivery
By John P. Riddell
Freemasonry is seriously indebted to those dedicated members
of our Fraternity who labor for months and years in learning the
various elements of ritual. I have often observed however, that the
effort and valuable time spent in memorizing and perfecting these
magnificent moral lessons is not always fully exploited;
surprisingly, this is not the result of faulty or halting memory,
but rather ineffective delivery.
How do we measure the
effectiveness of delivery?
Effective delivery is
achieved whenever the candidate(audience?) has been able to hear
clearly and to reasonably understand the information presented by
There are five elements of delivery or speech (the terms are
literally synonymous) - they are: knowledge of the subject, the
speaker's conviction of his message, audibility, pronunciation, and
This might sound like some complex literary
exercise, but it really isn't.
Surely, every speaker should know
instinctively if he is prepared, if he has adequately memorized and
perfected his presentation, and that he himself is committed to the
principles of his message; he must also know if he is speaking loud
enough, and pronouncing his words correctly.
contributes most to poor speech or delivery?
It is articulation.
The mechanics of articulation, except perhaps for professionals, is
rarely, if ever, obvious to most casual speakers.
But, lack of
attention to this vital element of speech can distant the
information and, at times, make it almost unintelligible.
Articulation - what is it?
It is a term that refers to the
movements of the lips, tongue, jaw, and soft palate to form speech
Good articulation involves production of sounds that are
clear and distinct, without being overly precise.
pronunciation with articulation.
Pronunciation is combining speech
sounds into recognizable words.
A speaker might survive
pronunciation that is unacceptable to an audience; poor
articulation however, makes a speaker much more difficult to
understand, affecting both the attention and comprehension of his
Poor articulation leaves out sounds, distorts sounds
(most often by running them together), substitutes one sound for
another, and occasionally adds strange sounds.
Remember, in a
conversation, if poor articulation makes you difficult to
understand, the listener can stop you and ask, "What did you say?
I didn't understand that." But,
when you're delivering a lecture,
charge, or verse of scripture, that isn't possible.
If you aren't
understood, the idea is lost because there are no instant replays
for the lecturer.
One note of caution - don't make the mistake of thinking that
you should precisely form every sound.
Over-articulation is also
poor articulation. Good speech
or delivery doesn't call attention
to itself. If you said "I went
to the movie last night." and tried
to precisely articulate every "t" in the sentence, your delivery
would be unnatural, and call attention to itself.
"the" should be the sound of "thu."
To say "the" with the long "e"
would overstress the word and would not be natural.
overstressing these sounds, the speaker looses the natural rhythms
of speech, and creates the perception of insincerity - that he
might be more concerned with his image than his message.
I suppose that some ritualists privately applaud themselves at
the completion of a lecture, charge, prayer or scripture; there was
nothing omitted and they managed to survive the ordeal. But, were
they effective? Did the
candidate and others who were listening
hear clearly; did they reasonably understand the message? If not,
it was probably due to poor articulation - speaking too rapidly,
distorting words by running sounds together, overstressing sounds,
omitting sounds. It is
difficult to understand a speaker under
these conditions - especially during the period when a candidate is
hoodwinked - he doesn't even have the opportunity to read the lips
of the person speaking.
All of us are veteran Masons, and have been exposed to this
"ritual stuff" many many times.
We've sat through the ceremonies
of opening and closing lodges conferring the three degrees,
installations, funeral services - much of this rendered almost
unintelligible by sloppy speech - poor articulation.
doesn't bother us because we've heard it so often that we can
mentally fill in the gaps left void by careless speakers. But
Brethren, can't you just imagine how some of this might sound to
new candidates or Masons hearing it for the first time. Remember,
if you are not understood, you've wasted your time in delivering
the message, you've failed to take advantage of the time and effort
in learning the work, and even worse, you've left thoroughly